A British-owned cargo ship sank in the Red Sea after it was damaged in a Houthi attack last month, Yemen’s government said on Saturday, March 2.

The government statement said the Rubymar sank on Friday night and warned of an 'environmental catastrophe'.

It is believed to be the first vessel lost since the Iran-backed Houthis began targeting commercial shipping in mid-November.

The ship was carrying more than 21,000t of fertiliser when it came under attack, the US military’s Central Command previously said.

The Rubymar was a Belize-flagged, UK-owned bulk carrier and was transporting ammonium phosphate sulphate fertiliser.

Yemen’s Houthi militants have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea region, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

A Yemeni government team visited the Rubymar and said it was partially submerged and could sink within a couple of days.

The US military previously said the attack had significantly damaged the freighter and caused an 18-mile oil slick.

The United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the sinking on Saturday.

Houthi attacks have prompted shipping firms to divert vessels on to the longer, more expensive route around southern Africa. They have also stoked fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread, destabilising the wider Middle East.

The United States and Britain began striking Houthi targets in Yemen in January in retaliation for the attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government is based in the southern port of Aden while the Houthis control much of the north and other large centres.

Houthi rebels control large parts of Yemen, including the Red Sea coast.

Since November, following the beginning of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the Houthi rebels have intensified attacks against ships heading for the Suez Canal connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, claiming they have been targeting ships destined for Israeli ports.